Waking up gasping for air

Posted , 6 users are following.

Lastnight I woke up gasping for air!!!!

It's happened before but not for a very long time.

Has anyone experience this?? Can anxiety cause this? It's so so scary when it happens! Please help or advice??

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8 Replies

  • Posted

    Yeah it's happened to me a couple of times. Or when i fall asleep and actually catch myself dosing off, i gasp for air as if i forgot to breathe in my sleep. afterwards, i get that nervous feeling in my stomach. 
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    • Posted

      There's also something called COT syndrome. It's the adult version of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

      There have been studies conducted in England. It has to do with the heart; but some feel like they are "gasping for air"

      Here's the article: (I've copied and pasted)

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  • Posted

    It can happen in anxiety, but take it easy just breadth in fresh air, when normal drink some water and try to sleep again. But its good if you can discuss with your doctor too to  rule out in other issues if any.
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  • Posted

    Hi Kerri,

    This has also happened to me once in a while and I would be interested to know what could cause it if not Sleep Apnoaea.

    For me, it happened more often (but not regularly) when I was a child / early teens. I always said a little prayer for protection for all my family before going to sleep. However, on the odd occasion I fell asleep first, it seemed I would suddenly wake, gasping for air - as it wasn't a regular occurence my parents weren't worried and suggested maybe it was my conscience pricking me for forgetting to say my prayer!

    The scary bit is that being woken with that first drag in of air, as if my lungs are empty, and I panic that I can't breathe. Sometimes it has been preceeded by a brief nightmare of being buried, or trapped underground - and sometimes I have woken with my head under the duvet!

    The last time I remember this happening was when we were on holiday in the middle of nowhere. It was our first night and it was pitch black - I'm used to street lights. After that, I opened the blind a chink, so there was a tiny light reference to cling on to. The same thing had happened the year before, as the bedroom had skylight windows with very effective black-out blinds. That first night I woke and was half out of bed with my hands pressed against the wardrobe in a blind panic to get out from whatever was burying me! My breathing came back quickly but it took a long time for the anxiety to subside enough to get back to sleep. As I had disturbed my husband, anyway, I opened one of the blinds an inch.

    I would love to know how this panic in pitch black conditions can surface when I am fast asleep! It is so scary!

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  • Posted

    Yes!!! Actually just happened (again-not the first time)

    My husband wondered if maybe I had swallowed a small insect like a spider or small fly. He had read that we sometimes do in our sleep unaware.

    Anyway, I literally was gasping for air!!! Very scary!!!

    Did you ever get a defined answer?

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  • Posted

    DAILY NEWS 28 March 2003

    Adult “cot death” may explain mystery fatalities

    By Shaoni Bhattacharya

    A significant number of people could be dying from an adult version of “cot death”, suggests a new study.

    At least 3500 apparently healthy people collapse and die every year from unexplained causes in England alone, researchers have found. And in about 150 of these mystery deaths no cause can be identified, despite a full post-mortem examination.

    Tim Bowker, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation and a consultant cardiologist, led the study and says anecdotal reports of this type of death had baffled doctors for many years.

    The researchers suggest that some of the deaths may occur due to electrical or metabolic abnormalities in the heart. However, this problem can only be identified in a living patient.


    But the study shows the mystery deaths are a “real entity”, Bowker told New Scientist. “And until one gives it a proper label, it is very difficult to take the science forward,” he says.

    Life saver

    He thinks the deaths should be classed as the adult equivalent of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and called sudden adult death syndrome, or SADS. This would lead to more information being collated and help find a “common thread” between cases, he says.

    After cot death was officially recognised as SIDS, the number of deaths was cut by 70 per cent within a decade.

    Bowker and his colleagues at the University of London asked coroners to look out for mystery deaths over a four month period, and send post-mortem reports and tissue samples. They specifically looked at white Caucasians aged 16 to 64, with no medical history of cardiac disease.

    The team found that 80 per cent of the almost 700 unexpected deaths reported could be attributed to underlying coronary disease. A further proportion could be ascribed to some other kind of cardiac disease. But in about four per cent of cases no cause could be found.

    Chaotic rhythms

    These inexplicable deaths may be due to various causes, Bowker says: “Clearly the heart has stopped, but the structure is normal, so the first thing one should think about is electrical problems.”

    The beating of the heart is co-ordinated by electrical impulses generated by the flow of ions into and out of its tissues. In some conditions, problems with this electrical circuitry can mean the heart beats in an unusual pattern. “This may lead to chaotic rhythms in the heart, and so it stops,” Bowker says.

    But there may be other factors, unrelated to the heart, underlying this kind of mystery death. For example, the control of breathing might be lost.

    Journal reference: Quarterly Journal of Medicine (vol 96, p 269)

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  • Posted


    I know this is an old post but was wo wring if you ever got an answer as to what was causing these episodes?

    I also keep getting these terrifying episodes from time to time but can't seem to get an answer.

    They started when I was 25 (I am 30 now).

    A little about me, I have a lot of palpitations & episodes of tachycardia (fast heart rate). Exercise intolerance. Wheezing (been tested for asthma negative result)

    It's all very confusing. I am due to have another echo soon (scan on my heart)

    Do you have any heart/lung issues? Wondering if they are related?

    Long frustrating journey.

    Hope to hear back from you.

    Best wishes

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